The opportunity for spring grass allocation has reduced significantly in dairy diets across the country in the past couple of weeks, and the wet weather has caused some serious damage to paddocks. This is a setback that can be easily offset with a few management techniques.
In this situation, it is best to allow calved cows back to a fulltime indoor programme until weather permits. For the majority of herds, supplementing with an 18% crude protein concentrate or coarse ration of approximately 5-6 kg would suffice, depending on forage quality, and within a very short timeframe the story may be very different and freshly calved cows maybe out by day and night, grazing highly digestible grass. At that point the protein content in the concentrate or coarse ration can be reduced as the amount of grass grazed increases in the overall diet from 18% to 16% respectively. I strongly advise to reduce the protein content in a gradual fashion to limit stress for the dairy cow.
Intakes must be monitored and cows should be grazing down to 3.5 cm to 4.0 cm to the post-grazing height. The first rotation will be long and the aim should be to finish the first rotation before 10th of April which is often referred to as ‘Magic Grass Day’ where grass growth equals demand. Digestibility will be increased by 3-4 digestibility units in May & June.
A suitable spring rotation planner must be adhered to and it is preferable to have urea spread on the grazed ground in spring, as it slowly releases approximately 23 units per acre in the soil. Following the first rotation, attention will quickly turn to the preparation of silage ground. What happens during the first rotation will have a direct impact here and the aim is to have the first rotation finished within 40 days.
Getting cows through the first rotation while maintaining optimum Body Conditions Score (BCS) can be tricky and attention must be given to achieve target DM intakes bearing in mind a cow will not reach greatest intake until 10-12 weeks following calving. High-quality silage and concentrates together with optimal trace elements and vitamins must be offered to maintain cow performance.
It is well documented that BCS loss has a negative impact on herd performance from a number of perspectives, including milk productivity and fertility. In order to achieve optimal milk productivity please ensure cows are holding body condition and intakes are at an optimum of between 18-20 kg DM per day. Together with achieving good intakes, monitoring BCS and offering quality spring grass is the order. It is vital that cows are getting the correct amount of minerals and vitamins, in particular, Calcined Magnesite (Cal Mag). Cows should be offered at least 56g of Calcined Magnesite per day to help prevent grass tetany. All dairy feeds supplied by Connolly’s Red Mills have the Calcined Magnesite specifically tailored for breeding season and to keep body condition loss to a minimum.
For further advice on dealing with herd health and getting cows to grass stress-free and in good shape, be sure to contact one of the Connollys RED MILLS nutrition team.
- grassland management
- herd management